An enthralling dive into trauma, mental health, and mother-daughter relationships.

THE SALT IN OUR BLOOD

Plagued by dreams and strange visitors linked to a tarot deck, Cat tries to uncover her mentally ill mother’s secrets.

Cat’s lived with Moony, her maternal grandmother, since her mother, Mary, dropped her off at age 7 with a secret deck of tarot cards. Ten years later, Moony’s death brings estranged Mary back into Cat’s life; she relocates her daughter from Moony’s small Louisiana town to New Orleans, where she works as a tarot reader in the French Quarter. Mary’s severe bipolar disorder has hurt Cat deeply in the past and is depicted in painful, no-holds-barred details. Cat worries about her own sanity, knowing the disease’s genetic component—and because she’s haunted by people resembling the figures from the tarot deck both in dreams and, sometimes, on the streets of New Orleans. With the help of Daniel, her handsome love interest, Cat seeks answers about the people she’s seeing and the inciting trauma that triggered Mary’s illness. She finds far more than she bargained for, learning about old family secrets and devastating crimes and tragedies that her mother survived. The discoveries are well paced, the setting enchanting. Cat, Mary, and Moony are painted as complex characters caught in a complicated dynamic; their believability anchors the otherworldly elements and provides emotional weight to the stakes and resolution. Cat and her family are White; Daniel is a multiethnic Black boy.

An enthralling dive into trauma, mental health, and mother-daughter relationships. (author's note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7227-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AW Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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